Friday, October 28, 2016

The Big D

So I'm divorced. (Well, not legally. North Carolina requires a one year separation before you can officially be divorced.) It's a taboo topic, especially when you start dating before it's "official". Still, I am sharing my story to encourage people to find their voice and talk about divorce, breakups and heartbreak and therein find their power to move forward and love again.

My saga began in August 2015, when a job promotion opened up that would allow me to implement my newly attained MBA skills within the Bank of America Digital team. The catch: It required me to move 3000 miles from Durham --- and from my husband who was only halfway through his Physical Therapy program. Since we had already weathered long separations in our marriage back when he was a baseball player, he encouraged me to take it on and agreed this new role would intellectually stimulate me. We both knew it did not, however, fit the formula for a "normal marriage". I shared my second thoughts before leaving: "I like living here in Durham with you and the routine we've created." We were confident we could stay strong, so I made my decision, took the promotion and moved to California.

Just six months later, on March 21, 2016, I wrote this in my journal:
The first day of spring is all about rebirth and hope. I'm pulling all strings right now to hold on to every piece of hope I've ever needed in my life. Tonight I was lying sprawled out on my bedroom floor - 3,000 miles away from my husband - staring blankly at the ceiling as tears slowly rolled down the side of my cheeks. Every time I blinked, I felt the weight of the tiny droplet leave my eye and begin its path to its final destination - the carpet. I asked myself - is this what real, deep sadness feels like? I don't have the motivation to get out of bed, go running, eat any food or make friends. My comfortable world just unraveled so quickly (14 days to be exact) in front of me and now I'm trying to make sense of it all. I feel so helpless, but one thing I do know is that I am going to fight for my marriage.

Another 14 days later, on April 5th, my marriage ended, despite trips back to Durham and a couple of counseling sessions.

Have you ever experienced that moment where all of the assumptions you had about your life's future just disappear like dust in the wind? There are so many events that could cause this to happen - realizing you're gay, losing a loved one or, in my instance, getting divorced.

My picture perfect future was erased that day when my marriage ended.

Of course, there were moments leading up to the ultimate decision where I realized that perhaps the future I had imagined actually wasn't that perfect. Maybe instead of bringing the best out in each other we brought out the worst. Maybe we didn't have as deep of a relationship that we both desired and needed. Was it just better for each of us to go our own separate ways and find another person who can make our souls sing?

I needed time to come to terms with the "maybes." I needed time to understand that this was the right path for me. Most importantly, I needed time to absorb the reality of the situation, to mourn the loss of so many people who were family to me, and to begin on a path towards forgiveness and peace with myself and with my ex.

That day it ended, I called my parents, bawling that it was really over. They dropped everything and drove through the night to whisk me and my cat back to the haven of my childhood home in Southern Illinois. We grieved together as they had loved him like a son but we worked rapidly to pack what we could into their car and the remaining items into good friends' garages. I left Durham without looking back. I stayed at home for a week, ate very little, didn't do any dishes and pretended that I didn't know my mom was going outside to cry where I couldn't see her. We went to two Dharma meditation classes together and that helped my mom as much as it did me. I helped my dad plant kale in the high tunnel, where he told me "Caitlin, just get your hands dirty. Putting your hands in the soil is therapeutic." As always, he was totally right. I burned old pictures of "us" with my brother. As the huge bonfire transformed smiling images of days gone by to ashes, we both screamed primal cries. Very cathartic, I might add.

Within a week, I was ready to go back to work, to feel productive and to put roots down in California, something I had hesitated to do before. I had this intense need to invest in friends already made in the previous months. And I wanted to get that started already!

Upon landing in SFO, my Uber driver and I talked about his family and his dreams and then he looked at me through his rearview mirror and asked me why I looked so sad. I told him I was going through some heartbreak. He told me: "Caitlin, you are so beautiful. I can tell you have a good soul, you will have a very happy life with a very kind man!" It sounds so “don’t worry be happy” saying this, but in that moment, a switch flipped. He was right. I was going to be just freaking fine! I needed to believe it and I needed to be positive.

In fact, his words jolted me just when I most needed to hear them. I knew how to come to terms with the "maybes:" Begin to accept them as truths. I was on a better path, even if I couldn't see it during the break up. I had a choice. I could choose to feel sorry for myself and constantly question every single action I took leading up to the separation, or I could accept it and begin forming a new life filled with people who support and love me. I chose the latter. A wise friend, Jillian, who also recently was separated, summed it up perfectly:  Love is certainly a confusing thing, especially when we confront head on the things that are missing in a relationship, even when it causes our paths to separate.

After I changed my frame of reference, I realized that it's okay to write a different script.

Suddenly being so far away from Durham was the best thing that ever happened to me and allowed me to move forward, at lightning speed. After all, none of my Cali friends knew him or had been to my wedding. I had a perfectly clean, blank slate. I didn't have to answer awkward questions of "How's he doing?" because he wasn't ever a part of my life here.

What also allowed me to move forward was the fact that I already had an established residence as well as a selfless support network who visited in April and May, some from across the country! My Charlotte friends called me constantly, providing legal, moral and emotional support. I started dancing, hiking, lifting, rock climbing --- I met so many amazing people in the process. And, of course, I ran. I didn't have a plan, I just ran with Jenna or Heather as much as I could and basically every run was a therapy session, even if we didn't talk about my separation directly.

Just having someone I could rely on every single day was powerful. Running transformed my anger into acceptance, my confusion into clarity, my pain into power.

On one particular run, it hit me: I am free. I am not only running free, but I am indeed free. Quite literally, free! With the wind whipping through my hair, the bugs drowning in my sweat, and the geese hissing at me, I had this revelation: I no longer am bound to anyone or anything in my life. I can do whatever I want. The future is entirely my own - I am no longer a shared entity with someone else. And that's a very beautiful thing to welcome.

After that wonderful little run, I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. It was time for me to channel my newfound power into the challenging training regime that would prepare me to successfully cover 26.2 miles. In many ways, my life got back on track through my steadfast friend named running.  (note - I'll cover that race in another blog post). 

And then, just a couple months later, there was this journal entry:

June 16th, 2016: A Whole New World!
Let's change the mood of this book called life. As I flip the page from a chapter full of heartbreak, despair, judgment, pain and shame, I hold my chin up high with confidence in the full rebirth of Caitlin Rose Chrisman. This next chapter has already started full of hope, trust, warmth, laughter and acceptance! What am I really saying? I am actually beginning to live again! I've been resurrected. My past has shaped me, but it doesn't DEFINE me. Since it's top of mind now, I want to recap my past two dates because they were really fun!


I didn't expect to be ready to date, but I was. I expected that some friends or family members would justifiably be skeptical of my judgment to jump into a relationship so soon. I sensed that they were coming from a place of wanting to protect me from potentially getting hurt again. Some even questioned me point blank, and I appreciated their concern. Yet I also knew that the only person who could gauge if I was ready to date was myself. There isn't a script for falling in love that we all can follow. And so with that, I encourage you to trust your instincts and to pursue relationships that make you feel alive. ...

just because, four months later, I'm still dating that same person. When the time is right for you, may you also be open to the same happiness and pure joy an authentic caring relationship can bring.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Week in Review

55 miles
12M MLR
13M with 2 x 4 miles with 1M moderate recovery in 605/603//601/602 (635) 606/601/557/552
12.7M MLR with 5 miles progression at 627, 623, 611, 608, 601

Just one more week until I toe the line at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!  After taking my easy runs SUPER easy, my legs finally felt decent again in a workout!  I was thrilled to hit the times in the 2 x 4 mile workout and I finally feel recovered from being sick and running pretty hard through it.  I'm ready to get there already!!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Week in Review

74 Miles
12M MLR
15.6M with 5 x Broken 2K repeats (1000m with 200m float, 800m fast, 400m jog rest)
     84/87/43 (57) 81/82 (2:08)
     87/86/43 (57) 81/82 (2:15)
     84/84/42 (59) 80/82 (2:03)
     84/84/42 (65) 81/82 (2:03)
     84/84/42 (53) 81/81

18M with 10 miles at 601/602/558/601/602/601/603/601/604/555

Phew, what a week! I'm definitely ready for a solid taper! And after Saturday's workout, Terry emailed me that I get the best (and worst!) present of all:  a really nice taper.  But first, let's start with Wednesday.  My trusty training partner, Jonah, and I headed out to the track near El Camino to run the broken 2K repeats workout.  Ironically enough, the last time I did this workout was back in late March in Durham when my marriage was crumbling apart in front of my eyes.  For more reasons than one, I wanted to really crush this workout, and I did just that!  Also, it's a really fun way to do a track workout.  Typically I cringe when I see that Terry's created a workout that logistically works better on the track, but I knew that this one would be more interesting than just doing 400m repeats or countless mile repeats.  

On Saturday, Jonah and I headed out for my final big marathon workout.  It was a bright and sunny day, and I gave Jonah strict orders that we should run 605 pace.  Instead, we were running low 600s to high 550s.  By mile 9, I watched as Jonah pulled away from me and I maintained my pace.  I didn't go with him because mainly I felt like crap, but I also didn't consider trying to go with him because I know that I've got a marathon in two weeks and he does not.  It was so cute because at the end of the workout, when Jonah rounded back for me, he immediately asked "Are you okay?!" because it's the first time he's seen me do less than how the workout was written.  I'm used to having workouts where I feel like poo-poo, but he's never really seen that happen yet.  After reading my log about how tired my legs feel, Terry immediately responded with strict instructions to take my slower runs even easier and to reduce my mileage.  I am happy I get to take a step back from running, but I also loathe taper weeks because they get so boring and tedious. I also typically feel super bloated during taper because I'm not running as much and because I'm eating more carbs than normal.

Terry also said that my tempo workout gave a good indicator as to what a good target pace is for Chicago - and I agreed with his assessment.  We both recognized that the best way to PR at Chicago is to run 605 pace through at least halfway or even 18 and then to try to run faster after that.  At least now I have a goal that my own coach also believes I can achieve!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week in Review

66 Miles
2 Days off
15M with workout of 4 x 2.5M (800m rest) at 556/555/257 (326) 550/555/252 (328) 
555/556/253 (343) 553/557/253
11.5M with 12 x 200m repeats at 40s with 200m jog rest
24M time on feet long run in 2:55 (7:17 pace), with no food before hand, 2 sips of water

Despite having taken off two days due to sickness, I absolutely killed my runs this week.  I have always prided myself on my ability to listen to my body, even if it means taking a day off.  It's really helped me to put aside my ego and just trust that taking time off will be better for me in the long run.  As a result of my strange stomach virus on Sunday, I felt like total crap on Monday and Tuesday. I didn't run or climb and focused on just taking naps and sleeping a lot.  By the time Wednesday rolled around, I knocked out 9 miles easily.  I decided to try out the original workout of 5 x 2.5 miles on Thursday because I'd have the company of Jonah.  For this workout, my notes were recorded as follows:

  1. Super glad I took Monday and Tuesday off from running. 
  2. This went 100x better than I was expecting given how sick and tired and just terrible I felt Sunday through Tuesday.  It was harder trying to slow down to run 555 pace than it was to run 550 pace. It just felt SO effortless!  
  3. Thank god for Jonah. 
  4. After the third one, I stopped for a quick sip of water and the jog rest time doesn't reflect that so it was probably more like a 4:00 rest. 
  5. YAY!   I killed this workout!  This is the first time that I've really walked away knowing that I'm in shape to PR at Chicago.
Saturday and Sunday were also somewhat big days, with a light 200m workout, followed by a long run on the rolling hills of Canada Road with some of my guys.  Most, if not all, of my runs this week were spent with Jonah and I am SO GRATEFUL for his company.  Especially this week, when I was doubting my ability to get runs in after my sickness, his presence was crucial.  For the long run on Sunday, I made the mistake of only drinking water and not eating any food before.  I had only 2 tiny sips of water during the run so that in the final 2 miles of the run, my body was seriously bonking.  My legs started to feel eerily similar to the end of a marathon, so ultimately I was grateful for the practice of running on really tired legs and the chance to use my mind to overcome my protesting body parts.  



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week in Review

83.6 miles
16M MLR
14M with workout of 5 x 1.5M with splits of 600/252 (2:00), 555/250 (1:59), 557/249 (1:59), 601/250 (2:01), 556/244
12M MLR
21M  at 648 average pace

It's always fun to take advantage of a bank holiday by running 16 miles.  I was so relieved to have the entire three day weekend to myself, without any major plans so that I could just focus on training.  With Peter in China for work, I had a lot of time to just pack up my things for my upcoming move and also to catch up on writing all the training plans for my athletes.

For the 1.5M workout, I did this solo at Stanford around the 2 mile road loop.  I thought it was going to go quite poorly, but it went rather well. I was really stoked to hit - and even surpass - the target workout splits without the company and encouragement from the usual suspects like Heather or Jonah.  I should also note that I decided to start lifting again, so I was really sore during this workout because I took a three month hiatus from picking up anything over 25 pounds.  I only decided to lift because my lower back was beginning to get tight again - which is what caused my achilles injury last October - so I did not want to see any of that force me out of Chicago.

Peter made it back on Friday and by Sunday, I'd knocked out 21 miles with Jonah, Max and Tom on Canada Road.  I didn't feel great on this one and actually ran a bit slower than Terry had planned, but I knew that it was more important to listen to my body and just run on feel.  I still closed the last 2 miles in 620 and 559, so it wasn't a *terrible* run, just not example 14-16 miles at 630-645 pace as written.  The unfortunate cap to this weekend was when I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling absolutely terrible, ultimately resulting in vomiting a couple of times, among other things.  It was great to have Peter there because he made sure I had whatever I needed to at least feel somewhat better, which was mainly just moral support and saltine crackers.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Week in Review

83 Miles
20.5M Long Run with 11 miles at 605, 600, 602, 558, 604, 608, 605, 602, 606, 605, 555
15M with 3 x 3 miles w/ 800m jog rest via 552/556/556 (3:28), 552/559/549 (3:45), 554/557/552
8 Runs, 0 Days Off
3 Rock Climbing Days
1 Lift Session

What a great week! I kicked off the week with my last day spent with some of my favorite guys - Nick and Matt - which included a rock climbing session plus some yummy dinner in Palo Alto.  The rest of the week was spent catching up on sleep, running a lot, and working and climbing more.  Coach T-Bone's plan for the week was somewhat daunting, but I managed to hit all the pace and mileage goals without a hitch!  Peter is gone in China for this week and next, so I figured I would take advantage of the free time by knocking out some solid miles and also taking some time to reflect.

I am in such a good place right now.

My training is going really well and I finally have friends to share the miles with.  I've created a solid crew to run with in the mornings (which is surprisingly a much more difficult feat than it sounds since Californians loooove to sleep in and run in the afternoon).  I've gained back the divorce weight that I lost during the roughest weeks and I look healthy again!

The first half of this year was one of the toughest moments of my life, but so far the second half is shaping up to be pretty fan-freaking-tastic.  I'm so excited to toe the line at Chicago in just five weeks.  It's such a privilege to be able to toe the line with so many professional runners and then also so many of my great friends.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Week In Review

83 Miles
11M MLR
14M with 8M tempo via 556, 612, 559, 554, 604, 600, 551, 555
23.5M at 6:59 pace
8 Runs, 0 Days Off

The marathon training grind really kicked off this week.  When Terry had an 8 mile tempo on the schedule for marathon pace, I immediately synced with Heather to see if her workout was somewhat similar. Fortunately, she had 6 miles at MP, so I hopped on board with her to that we could both mutually benefit from running together.  I continue to be amazed at the support I've found out here, both from a running and personal perspective.  I had a bit of a cold this week, and Heather just chatted away during this workout, keeping my mind off the struggle I was facing.  I felt bad because I couldn't respond with much more than "yeah, it's great" for most of the run.

On Saturday, Tom and Jenna joined me for portions of a time on feet long run where I had strict instructions to drink very little to no water.  I got a couple of sips just twice during the run, and I was grateful that I did if more just for the mental sanity it provided me.

I can't believe that Chicago is in just 6 weeks!  It became more real because some Bank of America associates came out to meet me at Rancho San Antonio for a photo shoot for an article.  Typically BOA features about 12 athletes who have really cool, inspiring stories related to the marathon.  Most of the folks are real heros, battling cancer or running with a handicap or helping save lives in other countries.  My story obviously isn't along those lines, but they wanted to feature me since I do work for Bank of America.  Ironically, while I've been extremely open about my divorce to everyone in both my work and personal lives, I didn't want to make that the spotlight for the piece on me.  So instead it's mostly about the injury leading up to the Trials, which was really just a small blip on the map compared to all the other junk that happened in the first quarter of 2016.

But I digress.  I'm so honored and humbled to be included in the BOA Chicago Elite field.  After all, I was rejected at least twice before to this program.  Over the years, Bank of America has supported my endeavors to pursue training for the Olympic Trials and also to graduate from the Duke Fuqua School of Business while working full time.  Even during my separation, when I felt like I was putting my career on the line by requesting to work from Durham for an undetermined amount of time, my manager came through and let me do it, no questions asked.  It's moments like those that made me feel like I truly mattered, not only as an employee, but as a person.  I can thank all of my current and past managers for creating that culture.  My managers have been completely supportive of me during my 8-year stint at this company, so it's very meaningful for me to race as a way of saying thanks for all that they've done over the past couple of years.